ArtsWatch Weekly: 24/7 Fertile Ground (plus cats)

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

All right, it’s not really twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Fertile Ground just seems that way. Portland’s eighth annual festival of new performance does happen daily, and often both daytime and evening, and every day through Sunday, when it completes its eleven-day marathon run. By that point it will have staged more than 160 performances of new works in more than thirty venues across the metropolitan area. And while the festival itself will end, several of the works will continue, because theater companies have begun to program their new plays during the festival’s annual January run, capturing some of the splash and then settling in for an ordinary several-week slot. You can catch up here with what’s happening when and where for the rest of the festival.

Sam Reiter as The Maiden Tsar in "Baba Yaga." Photo: Trevor Sargent

Sam Reiter as The Maiden Tsar in “Baba Yaga.” Photo: Trevor Sargent

Here at ArtsWatch we’ve been out and about, catching the shows we can, and here, so far, is our Fertile Ground report:

Into the Woods with Baba Yaga. Sam Reiter is Baba Yaga, Christa Morletti McIntyre writes, embodying the mythos of the Slavic folk tales’ strange and powerful woman of the woods.

Just art: a creative shot in the arm. I Want To Destroy You, Rob Handel’s new play at Theatre Vertigo, plays smartly and provocatively with a fictionalized version of the saga of Chris Burden, the performance artist who catapulted to fame by having himself shot in the arm, I write.

Woman, trapped. Sue Mach’s new adaptation of the story The Yellow Wallpaper, Christa Morletti McIntyre writes, leaves you feeling “like the pit of your stomach was ripped out and lost down a hole.”

In search of the great white … leg. The latest chapter in Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble’s continuing riff on Moby-Dick, Barry Johnson writes, concentrates its attention on something that isn’t there: Captain Ahab’s missing leg.

Golden cage, broken promises. Milagro’s newest play takes a tough look at the West Coast’s booming child sex trade, including its Portland connections.

Dance Weekly: the more we get together. Jumana Chiarini’s weekly column gathers all of the festival’s dance programming and lets you know what to see, when, and where.

Way down under, trapped on ice. Portland Story Theatre’s resident raconteur Lawrence Howard packs us off to Antarctica to witness the disaster of the Aurora, the support ship for Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 attempt to cross the continent through the South Pole: unmoored during a gale, it stranded six men on the ice, leaving them to fend for themselves in the bitterest climate on Earth.

Cast a glass eye: Faith Helma’s alchemy. I Hate Positive Thinking, Helma’s solo show at Shout House, is “an elegant and vulnerable piece that takes a careful look into the meaning of life as defined by its constant adoration of change,” Christa Morletti McIntyre writes.

Faith Helma, exhaling. Photo: Nichole Stewart

Faith Helma, exhaling. Photo: Nichole Stewart



The cat’s meow lands at PAM. Sex sells, of course. But on the Internet, at least, cats must run a pretty close second, as we discovered here at ArtsWatch when we ran a brief piece on the painting below, which is scheduled to be on view at the Portland Art Museum beginning Wednesday. The item quickly rang up more hits than Ichiro Suzuki in his glory days, prompting us to briefly consider coming up with a cat story every week, just to pump our numbers up. Cooler heads prevailed. The story, briefly, is this: Carl Kahler’s giant 1891 painting My Wife’s Lovers, bought recently at auction, will be on loan for a while to the museum before traveling to its new home, and we’re guessing it’s going to keep the turnstiles rotating: after all, in 1949 Cat Magazine anointed it “the world’s greatest painting of cats.” Now we can hardly wait to see what the museum comes up with for the dog days of August.

"My Wife's Lovers," Carl Kahler, 1891, oil on canvas, 6 feet x 8.5 feet. Collection of John and Heather Mozart.

“My Wife’s Lovers,” Carl Kahler, 1891, oil on canvas, 6 feet x 8.5 feet. Collection of John and Heather Mozart.



A couple of things to consider on this week’s calendar:

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Ah, competition. It’s as American as a … well, as a Broadway musical. So why not put the two together? This show does, with music and lyrics by William Finn and championship spelling by the whole darned cast. Broadway Rose gets the contest comedy going starting Thursday.

Portland Fine Print Fair 2016. Go forth and multiply across the face of the Earth, the commandment rang out, and with more than seven billion people crowded onto the planet, we seem to have done a pretty bang-up job of it. A different sort of multiple – fine art prints – arrives this weekend at the Portland Art Museum, where eighteen North American dealers who specialize in the print market will bring their works to town. Prints are both a democratic form of artmaking, allowing multiple distribution, and a highly skilled craft with its own traditions and processes. Come to buy, or just to look: There should be plenty of interest.




ArtsWatch links


Marjane Satrapi is best known for her graphic novel 'Persepolis' and its film version.

Marjane Satrapi is best known for her graphic novel ‘Persepolis’ and its film version.

Marjane Satrapi on the complexity of gender and art. ArtsWatch’s Marc Mohan sat down in Paris last week with Satrapi, the outspoken Iranian-born graphic novelist and filmmaker, to talk about her role in judging the online, which brings the splendor and spectacle of the film-fest scene right down to your digital screen. She pretty much hates watching films on a computer, she began, and then she was off and rolling: “Take ‘female film festival’, for example. What does that mean? I don’t make movies with my breasts, you know. If you want to make the division between female and male first of all, then you have to make the division between black and white, and dwarfs and very tall people. Because, obviously, your point of view at three feet and at six-and-a-half feet is not the same.”

Seattle Opera’s The Marriage of Figaro. After a changing of the guard, Angela Allen writes, the new guard comes blazing in: “At last we see a full-fledged production led by Seattle Opera’s new general director Aidan Lang. Hired 18 months ago to fill Speight Jenkins large shoes, Lang shows with this Marriage of Figaro that he can put together the pieces of a production with genius and charm.”

Fragments in Time: James B. Thompson’s elusive artistic journey. The Oregon painter, printmaker and fused-glass artist’s twenty-year retrospective has opened at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, and its influences traverse time, I write, including an opening series that draws its inspiration from the flat surfaces and floating perspectives of medieval art.

"The Five Positions of Life," 1995, acrylic, gouache, pigment, and mixed media on paper, 15 x 19” (framed dimensions), private collection. Photo: Dale Peterson.

“The Five Positions of Life,” 1995, from James B. Thompson’s “Fragments in Time”; private collection. Photo: Dale Peterson.




About ArtsWatch Weekly

We send a letter like this every Tuesday to a select group of email subscribers, and also post it weekly on the ArtsWatch home page. In ArtsWatch Weekly, we take a look at stories we’ve covered in the previous week, give early warning of events coming up, and sometimes head off on little arts rambles we don’t include anywhere else. You can read this report here. Or, you can get it delivered weekly to your email inbox, and get a quick look at all the stories you might have missed (we have links galore) and the events you want to add to your calendar. It’s easy to sign up. Just click here, and leave us your name and e-address.


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